The Daily Grind: Are lifetime subs in MMOs still worth it in 2021?

    
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MOP reader Kaz sent us a note over the weekend alerting us that Star Trek Online’s lifetime sub just so happens to be half off right now, $150 instead of $300. (It ends at 3 p.m. EST the day this post goes live, in fact, so consider this a Daily Grind/PSA combo with an expiration date!) Kaz wanted to know whether it’s worth it, and the answer is… it depends.

I don’t play STO, but I can say I’m very glad that I didn’t buy lifetime subs for some of the other games my wealthier guildies did. Fam, I have a guildie who bought a lifetime sub to the original Hellgate: London. Owwww. So my instinct is to say, nah, skip it, save ya coin.

But then I think about LOTRO, where people who bought the lifetime sub way back when have really gotten a tremendous value. Maybe a little too much value, if the theories about SSG’s recent moneygrabs are credible. I regret not buying one back in the day because I know I would’ve played more if I had, and if SSG offered it again (and it won’t), I’d seriously consider it, even at this late a stage in the game’s life. And STO seems a lot more secure than LOTRO, even, so I wouldn’t be all that worried about that. If the Star Trek franchise were my jam, it’d be tempting.

Help me help Kaz out. Are lifetime subs in MMOs still worth it here in 2021? What about the STO lifetime sub specifically? Got any regret? Can you top Hellgate: London? And are there any MMOs you wish had a lifetime sub but don’t?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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EmberStar
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EmberStar

First, set aside the “lifetime” part of the Lifetime sub. Look at what else comes with the package, and decide if that is “worth it.” There’s usually some perks that get thrown in, so are those things you’d actually be interested in buying if it was possible to purchase them individually? Then consider if the game has a subscription fee (or an equivalent paywall for F2P game. Such as SWTOR, where you *can* play free but with half the UI missing and major gameplay mechanics crippled.) If you played the game for, lets say a single year, would you break even? Then a Lifetime might be a good deal.

In my case, I got LTS to STO and Champions Online back when they were subscription based games. By the time they went F2P I’d more than broken even just on the monthly sub cost I wasn’t paying. The monthly stipend allowance is tiny, although I am patient enough to save it up for six months to purchase something. For most people I suspect it’s better to treat it like a monthly $5 discount coupon that you have the option to save up.

Do I regret getting the LTS for those to games when I did? No, not really. Would I buy it again now? Probably not. I don’t play Champions Online at all anymore, and I’m not enthusiastic enough about STO to really want to throw hundreds of dollars at them. (Totally aside from the whole “worldwide pandemic that has destroyed the economy” thing. I don’t actually *have* money right now, so I can’t buy anything from anyone.)

Turing fail
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Turing fail

Caveat emptor My time in sales makes me sneer whenever I hear “lifetime” anything.

That being said, if one can afford it and having the game go belly up prematurely won’t scar one emotionally into a twisted, bitter, distrustful husk- go for it.

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Slaphammer

I’ll be the voice of dissent in these comments – I bought the STO lifetime during this 2021 sale. I hemmed and hawed about it for years every time a sale was announced, and comment sections like this one contributed to my hesitation. But finally just pulled the trigger.

Would it have been more cost effective years ago? Absolutely.

But they haven’t gotten any money from me since they went F2P many years ago, so I feel that picking this up now is my way of assisting the longevity of this game in some small way. Maybe I’m fortunate enough, or naive enough, that I don’t feel I need to pinch pennies and run calculations and figure out exact value on a per-month or per-ship basis or whatever, forecasting things out to see when it will have paid for itself. While I’m crunching my cost effectiveness numbers indefinitely, the game could disappear.

So at least part of the “value” of the lifetime for me is that I have the mental satisfaction that I have contributed to keeping the game alive.

One part of the STO lifetime that annoys me, though, is the size of the monthly stipend. You get 500 units, which is exactly the same as a game like LotRO, but the in-game prices make it so that 500 doesn’t go nearly as far in STO as in other games. They really need to increase the stipend, it’s a bit of a joke compared to their competition.

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

Stipend definitely sucks and is definitely on the low side, there is VERY little you can actually buy with 500 zen, some consumables and slots, some doffs, a couple of lockbox keys.. thats about all.

I suspect most people just sell it for dilithium which has more direct uses.

Games like ESO give a far more reasonable amount for a stipend with far more things it can be used on.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I just let it accumulate. 500 isn’t much, but if you can wait half a year it’s enough to buy a ship (mostly, you might have to throw in some “dilithium converted to Zen” to cover the excess they add just so that none of the prices are nice even numbers.)

To me, turning it into dilithium and burning it that way is an even bigger waste. It’s not much compared to the prices of anything worthwhile in their store, but it’s even *less* compared to the prices of anything that costs Dilithium. (Such as 45,000 dilithium for a single ship weapon… when a single *ship* requires between six and eight weapons, plus up to 16 consoles, warp drive, shields, impulse engine, deflector array (and then a secondary deflector for Science ships)… I’d rather save up for six months and buy an entirely new ship that *all* of my characters could use than pizzle it away on a single piece of gear for a single ship that can only be used by a single character.

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NeoWolf

Converting it to dilithium is useful for Fleet holdings I find.

I wouldn’t waste it on ship weapons personally, as you can get better ships weapons and equipment from reputation marks and even some episodes (and just replay for additional copies).

six months of saving for a ship is a poor return.. see it as comparative sub value say £10 a month,, thats six months for even a single ship is £60, not a good return, when I can buy most ships for half that price in actual money.

EmberStar
Reader
EmberStar

For me personally – fleet projects would be an absolute waste. I’m in solo fleets, that I made mostly to block the frequent blind fleet invites before they finally added an option to block those. I’m NEVER going to get to even the T2 fleet holdings. Short of winning the lottery and throwing thousands of dollars at cash shop currency to convert to dilithium, it’s simply not possible to earn the millions of dilithium I’d need.

The way you choose to value the allowence seems mathematically nonsensical to me. Even if I was basing it solely on a sub value of $10 per mont (which I assume is $15 – $5 allowance?) that sub value would be providing access to the game with access to stuff that isn’t permitted to free players. The game no longer has a subscription, my account is just permanently locked at the most encompassing access tier. The allowance is $5 per month… so saving for six months accumulates the equivalent of $30 in currency, which is the average price of a non-bundle ship. That’s $30 in cash store currency I don’t have to buy if I want that ship. I really have no idea how you get to $30 = $60

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

It is doable albeit slow and tedious and requires you to be careful about which projects you choose (there are two, one has a lot of material requirements, the other has less but requires more dilithium.. the dilithium one is the one you want).

My fleet is only me and a few friends and we are T2 on some holdings it is a tedious grind though.

They added the Dilithium Mine Holding with a view to it adding a discount to other holding projects to make it more amenable for smaller fleets, but that was something of a brain fart on their part as they made the projects to level up the dilithium mine holding in order to earn the discounts the same cost as standard fleet projects (which are of course aimed at larger fleets) lol.

They also had the brain fart idea of allowing fleets to ally so that they can contribute to each others holdings… but fleets are so caught up paying for and supplying their own holding they are unlikely to throw those resources an allied fleets unless they are done and already have capped holdings and for those fleets what need do they have to ally with anyone especially small fleets.

As for the pricing it only seems nonsensical to you because you did not consider the period of time only the value of the zen. And the fact that they actually value it considerably higher than that as zen is only ONE part of the benefits you have for your lifetime each month which they have stated before as viewing as being comparable to the value of the sub they no longer have.

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Motherball

Only if the lifetime sub is/was $60 or less.

Ernost
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Ernost

The only games where I would consider buying a lifetime sub are ones which will never ever offer one (BDO,WoW,FF14).

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Kickstarter Donor
Peregrine Falcon

Which MMO that’s less than 10 years old offers a lifetime sub?

So no. In 2021 it makes no sense to lifetime sub to anything. Maybe when some new MMOs come out that are actually worth playing.

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NeoWolf

I would definitely agree that more recent MMO’s have been far poorer in quality gameplay than older ones even if they are graphically more pleasing and the few that are as you note, do not offer lifetimes (although I suspect that is largely because most games are non-sub by default these days sadly because everything is F2P and microtransaction or lockbox heavy)

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

Not really something that can be given a quantitative answer as it depends largely on the specific MMO.

With STO for example, even purely from a number approach the game is now 11 years old so my lifetime sub which I bought for I think £120 prior to release is still used, and had I been paying a subscription for that throughout I would have paid £120 a year.. so I’ve saved literally a decade’s worth of subscriptions for the price of a single year’s worth.

It’s always a gamble though a risky large payout ahead of time in the hopes the game lasts long enough to make that gamble worthwhile and the incentives are always nice.

Lifetimes also have the added benefit of giving a chunk of change to a game to give a boost which helps for getting updates and content made at least in the short term.

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Loyal Patron
zoward

Two questions arise with lifetime subs:

1) How long will this game be alive?
2) How long will I want to be playing it?

I tend to move from game to game, so #2 becomes the reason I don’t buy them.

Reader
Armsman

I think it depends what perks you get with it; and also what stage (in the games lifecycle) you buy it too.

For example:

I am a HUGE Star Trek fan, and started playing STO in September 2009 when I got into closed beta. I bought an LTS to the game when they were first offered to us (a few days before the ‘open beta’ and launch.) <— That was 11 years ago.

At the time (in 2010), I believe I paid $250 for it.

One of the perks was 500 CP/Zen per month; and 500 Zen translates to about $5.00. (without any bonuses and discounts that would be applied if you bought larger sums of CP/Zen directly from Cryptic/PWE's website.)

So…

11 years = 132 months.

500 X 132 = 66,000 CP/Zen which translates to $660.00 worth of Zen I've received to date, and continue to receive monthly; and I still play and enjoy the game and have used that CP/Zen to make in game purchases of ships and other store items as I play.

So yeah, given I originally paid $250.00 U.S. in 2010 and have received (as part of that LTS transaction) to date $660.00 U.S. worth of Zen, even if you look at the best deal for buying Zen on Cryptic's website; and the fact I still play any enjoy the game – the LTS has in effect very much paid for itself, an at this point, I'm REALLY 'playing for free', or you could say that Cryptic/PWE is at this point, paying me to continue to play STO.

So yeah, for me in the case of Star Trek Online; the LTS was definitely worth it for me.

But yeah, like most thing; Depends on the game, and the situation.

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Kevin Smith

Lifetime subs are OK but only as long as you get everything they offer at least till the total time is the same as if you had paid monthly. I have seen companies offer lifetime subs then turn around and add things that the sub doesn’t include. If you are going to offer the sub then you need to honor it and not try and get more money at least for around a year from those players. I can see a couple years down the road adding things that need to be purchased but doing it before a year is up is just bad business.